Dreams in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A dream researcher friend asked if knew anything about the role of dreams in Shakespeare’s romantic comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” since she could not find any good info on the web.  Here’s my response, which she suggested I post:

One way to think of this play is as a commentary on the glorious folly of love.  Shakespeare is saying that love is like a dream—it radically changes our perception of reality and other people, it compels us to behave in ways that are foolish and irrational, it’s wild and magical and unpredictable, and it ultimately must yield to the sovereignty of the waking social order (as the end of the play makes clear).

After Bottom has returned from donkey to human status he says some funny things about how crazy and unbelievable dreams are, which is extra amusing and paradoxical because we in the audience have just seen that his “dream” of being an ass was indeed real (IV.ii.203-222).

One of the young lovers, Hermia, has an alarming dream about her beloved Lysander smiling cruelly while a serpent bites her breast (II.ii.144-150).  Her dream turns out to be an accurate “threat simulation” reflecting Lysander’s sudden change of heart towards her.

When all the lovers awaken toward the end, they marvel at their strange nocturnal experiences, and say some nice things about sharing dreams with each other (IV.ii.189-202).

Add to this the fact that the play was originally intended to be performed on midsummer’s night, traditionally a “dreamy” celebration of the shortest night of the year, when people stay up and carouse about till dawn.

And in the final lines of the play, the mischievous Puck asks the audience to pretend they’ve been asleep the whole time, dreaming the spectacle before them (V.i.429-430).

All in all, it’s a play that emphasizes the powerful emotional truth of dreaming and the energizing tension between dream desire and waking structure.

Thanks to Justina Lasley of the Institute for Dream Studies!


2 Replies to “Dreams in A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

    7th July , 1974 . Early morning dream : A huge building with a large room was visible . There was another room inside that large room . Suddenly I saw that Diamond was entering that room . He wore a Punjabi and bowed to somebody with folded hands . I also bowed to him with folded hands . Diamond was clean shaved . He came to me putting off his Punjabi . I noticed that he was looking very strong . He then sat in front of me .

    I said to him, ‘see, during my boyhood I used to come to you frequently . Then twelve years had passed and I completely forgot you . One day I saw in a dream that I went out for searching the book ‘Dharma-O-Anubhuti’ 2nd and 3rd part and went to my friend Nisith’s house, although I did not know that these two parts had already been published’. With a great astonishment Diamond was hearing my narration .

    I then continued, “then I went to you at Kadamtala and you said, see, you will write Dharma-O-Anubhuti’ 2nd and 3rd part”. After hearing this he expressed his great surprise and told other devotees, ‘see, how strange is it’ ! How strange’ !

    Thereafter he gave me some papers with some writings on these and said, ‘write all these fairly’. I start writing with a pen but noticed that some writings were not clearly understood, I asked Diamond about these hazy writings and continued writing after hearing his corrections . The dream went off .

    [ The dream has a reference in the book ‘Dharma-O-Anubhuti’ No 969 – In the devotee’s body God-the-Preceptor shows his sportive forms and the seer observes it .

    The dream has several meanings :
    * 1) In future all the writings about Diamond will be fairly performed by the power of God ;
    * * 2) ‘ Paper’ means body ; ‘writing’ means realizations and sportive forms, hazy writings are hazy realizations which will be corrected by God-the-Preceptor .

    Ref : ‘Dharma-o-Anubhuti’ No 938 – ‘The sportive forms which will happen are already described’ .Here it is described in the seer’s body ‘.

    3) In dream the seer narrated the real facts happened in his life and dream seen on , 1972 (dream no 5) indicating the expansion of the seer’s brain capacity .]

    [ * After a while, the dream came true when the seer had to take charge of the publication of the magazine on Diamond and continued for long years .
    ** For next 35 years this came true in the life of the seer with innumerable realizations.]

  2. I’ve just read your essay “A MidsummerNight’s Dream: Shakespeare’s Play of Dreaming” in the Dreaming journal. (December 2020) Well done! What a beautiful piece of work, full of implication for readers, scholars, playgoers and theatricals. I will continue to think about your work.

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